Monday, March 5, 2012

$20,000 - Holy Cow!

Our Diabetic Alert Dog (D.A.D.) costs $20,000.  That's a whole lot of cash to come up with, right? Riiiiiiight.

      "Why don't you just find a dog like your mom's or your

      "If they (Sonja and Callie) can sense a blood sugar low, can't you
        just find another dog like one of them to do the job, that's

I know you're asking these questions because these are the same questions we ask ourselves.

      "What is so special about a D.A.D. that it costs $20,000?" (you're
        asking that question too, aren't you? I KNEW it!)

Even though a dog may have a natural ability one moment to sense a blood sugar high or low, it doesn't necessarily mean that it will continue to try to "alert".  For instance, although we praised Sonja for her sensing Little Guy's blood sugar low that one time, she never did it again.  I even talked to Sonja about it:

      "Sonja, you did such a good job alerting us, go ahead and keep
        telling us when the boys are low."

Sonja just looked at me like I was crazy and walked off.  (And I felt a little crazy talking to her like that.  She is a dog, after all.)

The point is, a D.A.D. is very, very special.  Not only does the dog have to have a superior sense of smell, it also has to be smart enough to be trained to consistently alert its Human every time they have a high or low blood sugar.  In addition, the dog must be trained as a service dog to go anywhere with us - the library, the grocery store, church, sporting events in/out of doors, an airplane, hotels, restaurants, malls, schools, ANYWHERE!  This dog will accompany us anywhere we want to go and keep on alerting us of highs and lows the whole time.  It must be able to be trained how to behave well in public, under any circumstance.  Knowing Sonja, she's smart enough but is she willing to be trained?  That is the question.  The dog's personality is very important.  In the case of Sonja, she is an Alpha dog, meaning, for the most part, it's HER way or the highway.  No offense, to Sonja, I love her to death, but she can't be our D.A.D.  Maybe if we would have started with her as a little puppy, that Alpha dog sense she has about herself could have been "re-directed," but not so now.

Which brings us back to our D.A.D., Rex, our $20,000 Labrador Retriever puppy . . . We are purchasing our D.A.D. from Warren Retrievers who breeds Labrador Retrievers by artificial insemination, hand-picking the parents for scent detection and personality.  They give us a guarantee that our D.A.D. will begin alerting us within 15-24 hours of receipt of the puppy.  In addition, we have a 10 year warranty that it will not have certain genetic defects typical of Labs, such as hip dysplasia.  We receive our D.A.D. as a 10 week old puppy so that from the very start, this puppy acclimates to our family and its surroundings.  Since it is a little puppy, we will be training it ourselves with the assistance of Guardian Angel Service Dogs, the non-profit agency that provides our training and support.  Guardian Angel Service Dogs will visit us every 90 days for a 3-4 day training session for 12-18 months.  In between those visits, I will be following a checklist of training protocols to train our puppy, Rex, to be a D.A.D. that can go ANYWHERE.  You will see us with Rex everywhere the boys might go.  Rex will not attend school with them because we don't need him to do that.  We mostly need Rex for nights, as we're hoping that eventually we will be able to rely on Rex to alert us when the boys go low or too high during the night instead of regular blood sugar checks we presently perform throughout the nights.  Other people with D.A.D.s say that within about 6-8 months, their D.A.D. is alerting them to sugar highs/lows with 90% accuracy.  We'll take that!

My Hamburg Steinway piano is for sale
So, where do we come up with $20,000?  It's not like we happen to have $20,000 of cash lying around or anything.  Good question (was that one of your questions?  Well, it's one of ours!)  So far, Guardian Angel Service Dogs has received some donations from family and friends and made a note on their donation to go towards "The Mullins Dog".  These generous folks have received a tax deduction from Guardian Angel Service Dogs for their donation towards our dog.  In addition, we have various projects going on to earn some cash.  I've put my Hamburg Steinway piano up for sale, waiting for just the right buyer, I'm looking into selling some heirloom jewelry and other items that might bring in some cash, and I've started this blog, which earns me money every time you read it! (that's a sweet thing!).   We're trusting the Lord on all this.  Bits and pieces come in in interesting ways - just yesterday our car/home insurance company (no names mentioned) just got sued for fraud and had to send us a refund check for overcharging us; there's some more cash that just "fell into our laps" which will go towards getting Rex.  As much as I wish we'd get some big fat check in one, fell swoop, I am experiencing joy in the process of waiting and seeing what the Lord has planned.  It's just another adventure in the journey we're on.

I hope this fills you in a little more on what all is entailed with our D.A.D.  I love hearing from you and hearing your questions.  It gives me more to write about!


  1. Where there's a will... I'm amazed and inspired! Praise D.A.D.

  2. I still do not see how a potential service dog candidate puppy can be worth $20,000... A fully trained adult service dog maybe, one who is already fully task trained AND public access trained. But a 10 week old puppy? One whose training you have to do yourself with only a few visits from a trainer every 3 months? I do not see how that should cost anywhere near $20,000.
    A 10 week old puppy is not a service dog or I do not think would even be considered a service dog in training at that age, generally when they are that young it is not even known for sure that they would make it as a service dog because they have a lot of growing up to do. They are considered a potential candidate.
    Even in a professional breeding and training program such as Paws for a Cause or similar, where they have spent many years perfecting breeding for service dogs, many of the puppies do not make it to be full service dogs.

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Are you a Type 1 or do you have a Type 1 child? You seem to know a lot about training diabetic alert dogs. Are you a trainer yourself? Would love to know! These dogs really are miracles! And I would say that Rex is worth every penny - hard to explain what makes one spend so much on a dog unless you've lived in my shoes and seen how our dog works and saves our children's lives every day. It's sort of "unexplainable" and "unbelievable" unless you experience it first hand, but true it is and amazing for sure! Hopefully, as time goes on and you continue to read my blog you'll believe too, and if not, maybe I can help someone else believe and get their lifesaver dog too. Thanks for reading and especially, thanks for commenting. Love the comments!